Like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez I have been called a bitch – at least once to my knowledge. Hers was a much more public experience on the steps of the Capitol when a “Southern gentleman” let loose.
I was an editor for a newspaper when it happened to me. As such I was a young woman who wielded a bit of power and I had thwarted a male reporter’s plan – a plan I thought ill-advised.
It was years ago and like many women in my generation confronted with a “superior” male’s nastiness, I simply let it go. It hurt, though – mightily, at the time. But then girls were reared with the old jingle, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”
On another occasion, a fancy awards luncheon, a man, whose wife was seated next to me, reached behind her chair and pinched me. Shocked, I jumped, but when I saw her face, I simply let it go. That didn’t hurt but it infuriated me – for me and for her to have to put up with his crass behavior. Why did he feel he had that right?
Whether I agree or not with the politics of the young Democratic congresswoman from New York’s 14th District, is immaterial, what I love is her spirit – and indeed the spirit of many of today’s young women – no shrinking violets there, no generation of women “just letting it go.”
Am I sorry I didn’t fight back? A bit, but it was the accepted behavior at the time. Had I made a scene in either instance, I probably would have been called too emotional or hysterical and shoved into the “Hell hath no fury …” category. Unflattering, to say the least.
Although my attitude has changed, I still tend to walk away, believing, uncharitably, I suppose, that the offender will reap what he sows, but I don’t take insults so easily.
But I’m happy my daughter, my daughter-in-law and their young friends no longer have to “let it go.” They have a right, actually an obligation, to react to rude and crude judgments.
“My parents did not bring me up to take abuse from men,” Ocasio-Cortez said. And that’s the key. Her parents believed in her worth as a female and she grew up believing that, too.
Older men, often carrying the banner of “protecting fainting beauties,” the lesser beings, are either dying off or getting smarter. It’s a sea chance, a great all-encompassing movement. Some experts say it began in the Jazz Age when young women bobbed their hair and shed their corsets. Still it’s all about freedom and liberty.
I think now, having benefited from the changes initiated by last century’s Women’s Lib movement, our daughters, really are on the path to equality. The burning of the bras was the least of what was wrought by that movement. Now young women stand their ground proudly and sometimes to reactive extremes. I think time and more judicious minds will eventually smooth the societal rough edges of today’s #Me Too movement, but no woman should deny its necessity.
It still seems incredible to me that it wasn’t until the passing of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago granted all women in this country the right to vote – an entire half century after Black men were given that right. What did it say about us that the ruling male powers in this so-called democracy paid women less heed than men they had enslaved for generations?
So when the 19th Amendment’s anniversary rolls around on Aug. 26, let’s raise a glass to the so-called radicals, the suffragettes, the Women’s Libbers and the #MeTooers whose outspoken courage – or moxie or chutzpah, if you will – have carried our banners, however raucously – and sometimes to jail – and made life a bit more equal for those of us who once just let it go.